Hats Off to Family


eileen_icon.gif raith_icon.gif

Scene Title Hats Off to Family
Synopsis Raith ferries Eileen back to the Dispensary after her excursion into Green-Wood Cemetery with Francois.
Date July 16, 2010

Old Dispensary

The waters around Staten Island carry a certain degree of danger to them during the day, and at night, this degree is perhaps heightened further. Particularly with New York City beginning to shut down for the night, and the waters are being watched for smugglers and other undesirables. But that careful watching can only do so much, and try though the authorities might, some of those undesirables always slip through the cracks.

This is the state of affairs at the old seaside dispensary on the island, the converted home of the Vanguard Remnant, as the concrete pier 'out back' is assailed by a chorus of twin diesel engines as the cigarette boat they are attached comes cruising slowly in, the noise level briefly rising as the screws go into reverse and slow the vessel down enough for its pilot, Jensen Raith, to loop a length of rope around an anchor on the pier and secure it before he kills the engines. With another length of rope in hand, he climbs back to land and repeats with another anchor, securing the boat for the evening. Then, and only then, does he return to the side of the boat and extend his hand out so his one passenger can disembark herself.

Only one problem: Eileen has no interest in disembarking. Hands in her lap, a plain white cane resting across her knees, she sits with her back to the Dispensary and would be the very picture of propriety if it weren't for the black streaks of makeup smeared along her cheekbones or the flyaway strands of hair that the evening breeze has pulled free from the loose knot at the back of her head.

At some point after her trip to the cemetery with Francois, she made an attempt to wipe off her face with a handkerchief of her own, but rather than improve her appearance she's exacerbated it instead.

Blindness has nothing to do with it. She's indifferent to her condition rather than oblivious, and makes no move to rise from her seat or take Raith's hand when offered.

Raith still pauses for a few moments, waiting for her to register that they've stopped, look at his hand and then take it. But he remembers that this isn't going to happen tonight, or ever again. "Eileen," he says, just loud enough to get her attention, "Hand up. We're home." Now, he waits for her to stand and extend her own hand, and he'll take it from there. Hopefully, at least. The ex-spy doesn't know what, but something's been 'off' about her this night.

"I'd like to sit in the boat awhile longer," Eileen says, neutrally enough but without turning her head toward the sound of Raith's voice. Waves slosh against the concrete pier and the boat's sides, producing a gentle rocking motion that might have something to do with the Englishwoman's desire to remain where she is. "I can find my own way inside," she adds, her tone as firm as it is quiet. There's little room for argument.

She'll find her own way inside, and that's that. Not tonight, it isn't.

Raith stays in his hand, hand held out in the air for a few seconds more. The first clue for Eileen that Raith did not leave without her is either the sound of his boot touching the floor of the boat, or the rocking of the boat as more weight is added to it. But it's a sure thing when he has a seat right next to her and heaves a light sigh. "So we'll sit for awhile longer."

The warmth of his body and the ever-present reek of tobacco confirm Raith's presence in the boat and allow Eileen to estimate his proximity when he sinks down beside her. "A year and a half ago," she says, "a bridge fell on me and I had to swim across the Narrows through freezing waters. I'm not going to drown in a meter of it in the middle of July."

"Never said you would." Simple, plain, and to the point, as Raith is wont to be when the mood strikes him. "Sometimes, you're a mystery," he adds, "And sometimes, I know. Something's eating you from the inside, I can tell. Now, I know you like to keep to yourself but, that doesn't sit so well with me. Not today. So, I'm going to sit here, and either you'll tell me what's eating you, or you won't. Either way, when you've had enough, we'll climb out, go inside and have some tea and coffee, just like any other time."

Eileen's jaw sets. A moment later, she's pushing to her feet as if preparing to climb up onto the dock, but rather than reach for the rope she mounts the back of the boat where the motor is and steps out of her shoes, one after the other. This done, she begins removing the cardigan she wears over her dress for warmth, slim fingers working the buttons with practiced dexterity.

She'd been standing at the edge of the pier when Gabriel last found her, and although what she'd been thinking about doing hadn't been obvious then, it is now.

For a few moments, Raith watches her silently. Finally, it's time to speak up, however. "You know that I'll pull you out," he says, "Just like I know you're doing this to get me to back off, maybe even go away. Or just to get away from me. And you know that I won't just leave. So here we are." Just as Eileen did, Raith rises from his own seat. "And where are we going? Are you going to rock the boat? Or, are we both going to go inside, and have some tea and coffee, and work through whatever is bugging us as a team. As friends? Hm?" It's a semi-dangerous game Raith is playing, which means he's either certain, totally certain that the odds are in his favor, or totally certain that he'll win despite the odds.

Eileen's response is to drop her cardigan to the floor of the boat. Her dress isn't expensive by any stretch of the imagination, or if it is then she has faith that the water won't damage it because that's where she stops. Not about to expose any more of her body than her pale arms or legs below the knee, she draws in as deep a breath as her body will allow and plunges headfirst into the black.

Her one meter estimate was probably a little off. It takes several moments for her to surface, eyes squeezed shut and long tresses of curly hair plastered in ringlets to her cheeks, brow and the nape or her neck. Bare feet push off against the side of the boat with barely enough force to rock it, legs scissor and she glides off through the water around the front of the pier like a selkie reclaiming her skin.

The sound of Eileen surfacing is all that keeps Raith from diving in after her. He was close, too. Instead, he flicks on one of the boat's searchlights and spins its beam aft, illuminating the water and, of course, Eileen. "And now, here we are," the ex-spy calls out, "You going for a swim in the Atlantic, and me left wondering why, contemplating whether it's worthwhile to go after you in search of an answer." The sound of one boot dropping down into the boat might well be the answer to that question, furthered by a second boot dropping, then followed by the comparative soundlessness of Raith's coat and shirt dropping on top of them. "How's the water?"

"Cold," comes Eileen's answer from somewhere under the pier. The searchlight illuminates the water's surface and the ripples rolling across it as she navigates the shoreline and uses her hands to locate one of the pier's pillar supports. In reality, there's not much of a difference between what she can see and what he can see out here. With both Gabriel and Teo gone, the Dispensary itself is dark, and without the sallow beam bleeding out of the boat, the only assistance Raith has comes all the way from the other side of the water in the form of Brooklyn's distant glow.

"Go away, Jensen."

"Fine," is the reply that Raith gives. Has she won so easily? Of course not. Instead, Raith picks up his discarded boots, coat and shirt, and climbs onto the pier proper, sitting on it with his feet dangling over the edge, knowing he is safe from any attacks by Eileen sharks, for the moment. "When you stop this lone wolf nonsense, and stop acting like it's just you versus the world, I'll go away. Not a second before that. Not. Even. One." Irritation is beginning to rise in the man's voice, but he does everything he can, it seems, to keep it contained and under control.

The pillar is too thick around for Eileen to wrap her fingers around, so she encircles it with her arms instead, cheek pressed to the cement, which still retains some of the sun's warmth despite the moon sitting on its throne in the sky. She can't hear Raith moving above her like she would if the pier was made of wood instead of stone, but the small harbour's acoustics are such that she's aware he's no longer in the boat.

The tips of her fingers find a barnacle, and she spends the next few moments tracing its outline with her thumb's edge before pressing her lips to it in a salty kiss. "You first."

A second of silence stretches into ten, and if Eileen had sight and were not under the pier, she might well see Raith considering these words very seriously. "Come back up here and I'll tell you a secret." The ex-spy pushes himself up onto his feet and stalks to the edge of the pier, where he'll be able to help Eileen out, should she decide to stop hiding under it. "Not a fake secret like, 'I'm allergic to shellfish.' A real secret. One I'm don't feel like I need to keep anymore."

Eileen's face appears from beneath the pier, half-lit by the boat's searchlight. The last traces of her makeup create watery gray tracks that follow the line of her jaw and gather in the corners of her mouth along with several strands of inky hair spat out when she lifts her eyes to where Raith is standing. Her arms, however, remain in their loving embrace with the pillar. He doesn't yet have her cooperation, but he's managed to secure her attention.

Eileen looks up at Raith- or at least looks in his direction- and Raith looks down at Eileen, even if she can't see him doing so. A remnant of old behavior that hasn't changed just yet. "A secret about me, and Avi Epstein. Both of us. It'll help you understand why we are the way we are, even after all the less-than-pleasant things we've done to each other." Silently, Raith can't help but wonder if Eileen is busy imagine what the expression on his face must be. "If you're interested in hearing it, at least."

A slow breath pressed through her teeth is the answer Raith initially receives. She hadn't been lying when she told him that the water was cold, and now that it's soaking through the gauze bandages wound around her midsection beneath her dress, her impromptu dip in the Atlantic has become more uncomfortable than she imagined when the thought first occurred to her. Front teeth clamped together to keep from chattering, she reaches up with one slick arm, rivulets of saltwater running down the length of her limb as she offers it to the man on the pier, though he'll probably have to stoop to grasp her wrist and haul her the rest of the way out.

Stoop he must, because a moment later, Raith's hand locks around Eileen's wrist and he pulls, slow and steady, using whatever leverage the pier will afford him along with his own (and likely hers, unless Eileen intends for him to do all the work) muscle. "Up, up, and out," he says when she is, indeed, back on the pier proper and not in danger of falling back in, "At least the night is warm, right?"

But there's no more joking beyond that. Once Eileen is out of the water and onto something solid, Raith sits on the edge with his legs hanging over, just as he was when the boat was under him instead of the ocean. "Well, I promised, and I'll keep it," he says, giving the woman a moment to settle, whether she decides to sit on the edge with him, sit over there, stand or whatever. "You see, Eileen, a long time ago, Avi married my sister." Probably not the secret Eileen was expecting to hear.

Eileen opts to kneel instead of sit or stand, legs folded beneath her. Like her arms, they're covered in gooseflesh and trembling in spite of her best attempts to still her core, but Raith is right: the night is warm and poses no real threat whether she's glistening with brackish moisture or not. Her dress sticks to the flat of her stomach, narrow waist and the insides of her thighs, emphasizing how small she really is by giving the man beside her a more accurate impression of her proportions.

He could ask Gabriel too, but. Diminutive hands wipe the water off her face as best they can and are assisted by the rapid flutter of her lashes as she blinks more of it away from her eyes. Blind or not, it stings.

For the record, no. It wasn't what she was expecting to hear, but she is — so far — silent.

"That was twenty years ago, before I even met him. Before I was the King of Swords. Instant connection, though, like we'd been friends for years. I was never really close to either of my brothers, but there wasn't an inch of daylight between Avi and me. So, even after I joined the Vanguard and nearly sent the whole world to hell, even after he had me arrested and forcibly conscripted to save the world from, well, us, I guess." Here, Raith pauses, working his brain to find the words that he wants, and working his brain to make sure they mean what he wants them to.

"It's so much easier to push someone out of your life than it is to let them back into it." Another pause, just long enough for Raith to decide, "Well, that's, that's my secret."

Eileen looks down at her hands, irises shadowed by her lashes and the residual mascara clinging to them like a tacky adhesive the colour of tar. She places them on her thighs next and lifts her chin until she can feel the ocean breeze on her cheeks and hear its soft roar tumbling around in her ears. Her hair is still too wet to be teased and hangs limply around her face where it doesn't adhere to her skin and sodden clothes.

Reciprocation feels like it's the fair thing. First, she licks the excess water from her lips. "Daiyu says that Ethan's my father," she tells him, then. "Kazimir knew me since I was born."

Now, it's Raith's turn to be caught off-guard and by surprise, evidenced by the expression of mild shock only he is aware of. Several seconds of quiet consideration are followed by disbelief. "Holden? I don't see it. Maybe the nose…" Driven home when Raith, as stealthily as he can, presses the tip of his finger into the tip of Eileen's nose. It's a short-lived gesture of, something, succeeded by Raith sliding over just so and draping an arm around Eileen's shoulders, because hey, even if the night is warm, being covered head to toe in sea water still leaves the body chilly. "Families," he says, "Hats off to them- do you want a blanket? You seem like you might appreciate a blanket."

Eileen reaches up to push Raith's hand away from her face in a defensive display that involves a faint curl of her lip and pearly shimmer of tooth. The arm around her shoulders she allows with much less posturing and only a small amount of tension near the base of her neck as she shakes her head. No, she doesn't need a blanket, or Raith's jacket, or whatever else he might use in the absence of one.

"You should tell him about Liette and Lorraine," she suggests, "if you haven't already."

"Yeah." A response from Raith likely close to something Eileen was expecting from him, for a change. Expected, uninformative and noncommittal. "Thanks for listening, it- it actually helped a little bit," he continues on, "I don't feel any braver about talking to him. Last encounter didn't go so well." Thanks, Gabriel, you ass. The ex-spy decides to edit out the involvement of Eyebrows in that encounter. Eileen doesn't need to know about that part: She's probably pissed off enough just because he's not around. Again. "Just, thanks."

Although she herself does not, Eileen's eyes and the shape of her mouth let Raith know that he's welcome. The hand that had shoved his away comes to rest at his knee, the fabric of his pants clenched between curling fingers with nails that press gently into the skin of his leg beneath. Like she is with Teo, there's nothing sexually suggestive about the gesture or the shaky exhalation that accompanies it, and if she's upset about Gabriel being away it isn't reflected in her face's subdued expression or the stillness of her body language.

They have an understanding. Need one, to function the way that they do.

The conversation closes when Eileen's hand comes to rest on Raith's knee, no words necessary. Briefly, the ex-spy twists his torso around and, leaning back, grabs ahold of his coat and drags it over to him. From out of one of the pocket comes a half-finished cigar and a box of strike anywhere matches. The arm around Eileen's shoulders retreats, one hand holding the cigar while the other swipe a match across the concrete. Flames bursting from nothing will tell Eileen what is happening, even if the sudden, heavier smell of burning tobacco somehow did not.

With a long drag and long exhale, Raith looks out across the water and listens to the sounds of the ocean, having found, for the first time since he joined the Vanguard, a small measure of peace in his chaotic life.

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